Covid: It's not so funny being a comedian when you can't go on stage – Vladimir McTavish

These are tough times for the performing arts in Scotland.

By Vladimir McTavish
Friday, 16th October 2020, 7:00 am
Day after day, week after week, Vlad watched the same man wash the same car (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Day after day, week after week, Vlad watched the same man wash the same car (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Normally, when writing a column, I’d add a strap-line at the bottom informing the readers of any forthcoming performances in the area. There is now no need, as I have not stood on a stage since mid-March. Nor has anyone else in Scotland.

Reading through my 2019 diary, I find I did over 200 live gigs between March and October. In the same seven-month period this year, I have made a couple of forays over the border, playing a weird version of Russian roulette with drunk audiences in the Covid hotspots of the Northern England, which is a risky strategy.

I have done a number of “virtual” gigs over the months, but these are bizarre affairs, as comedy is difficult to do when you can’t hear any laughter, although I could name a number of stand-ups who regularly performed to no laughter when we still had audiences.

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Most of these online shows have involved me talking to the camera in my laptop, in my home, in a small box room at the front of the building, looking out at the house across the road.

As I was doing my first such gig back in early April, I noticed that the guy across the road was washing his car. The next day, I looked out of the same window and saw the guy across the road washing his car again.

The following day, I looked out of the same window and observed the same scenario. This continued on a daily basis until the end of June. Every day, I looked out of the window I saw the guy across the road washing his car. Day after day, week after week, month after month. Every day I watched him wash his car.

And that to me summed up the utter tedium of lockdown, the desperate lengths to which people will go to alleviate the crushing boredom of their daily lives. Namely, that someone would fill in their meaningless day by looking out of a window to watch their neighbour washing his car.

While unable to perform myself, I have been binge-watching the multitude of TV series available online. However, I realised that things were getting out of hand when I found that I had reached series 15 of Silent Witness, and was envious of the corpse as they appeared to be having a more interesting life than me. At least that actor had a job.

Now, we could be heading for more restrictions, although thankfully I can still get a haircut at a barber’s shop. Cutting my own hair was hard but having the haircut chat with myself was harder still. “Staying in again this weekend? Going nowhere on holiday this year?”

It looks very possible that comedy clubs and theatres will not be able to re-open before the end of this year, which is a disaster for the industry and a huge loss to the general public. It could mean no pantomimes this winter, although I think panto could work with both audience and cast being socially-distanced. It may alter some of the old traditions, for example, the audience would maybe have to warn “he’s two metres behind you!”

Vladimir McTavish may be performing somewhere before the end of 2020

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